Green Hill Valley a Sanctuary with a Difference
Kalaw in Southern Shan State is well-known as the pioneer of Myanmar’s ecotourism with green hills and breathtaking landscape, and it’s here that young tourism professionals have set up a project that focuses on protecting the environment, especially elephants and the traditions of local people living in the Kalaw hill town area.
Unlike elephant camps which are geared toward entertaining tourists, Green Hill Valley (GHV) operates solely as a sanctuary for aging pachyderms that mostly come from the labor-intensive timber camps of the government-run Myanmar Timber Enterprise, controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
GHV is entirely ethical and their focus is primarily on providing care and a home for elephants no longer fit to work in the timber camps. It also helps to educate local communities about the importance of conservation, while bringing the plight of elephants and other conservations issues to the attention of foreign visitors. Thanks to the income provided by visitors, elephants at GHV can enjoy their full retirement and receive the veterinary care they require.
Many members of the Khiri Travel team have personally experienced a day at the camp, and while we were allowed to feed and assist in the bathing of the elephants, we discovered there is no regular riding of these gentle creatures, as this can be stressful for them. As GHV says, ‘riding is not our main focus’.
GHV is also taking further steps to create awareness of environmental issues through its forest recovery initiative that invites each visitor to the elephant sanctuary to plant one tree from its nursery. The idea behind the initiative is not only to encourage forest recovery, but to educate the local community about the importance of reforestation and the risks posed by haphazard deforestation. Visitors are also given reusable water bottles to draw attention to the problem of plastic waste and throw-away plastic bottles.
GHV is a great destination for families with children, as it provides plenty of exciting opportunities to interact with the elephants living there, as well as learn about their behaviour and take part in educational, thought-provoking activities like tree planting.
The Kalaw Elephant Conservation Project is supported by Khiri Travel’s charity arm, Khiri Reach